As the Herald-Standard reported on Friday, the man believed to be the murderer of Rev. Eric Freed, a beloved priest in Eureka, Ca., has now been taken into custody. 43-year-old, Gary Bullock was apprehended without incident when authorities found him riding in his stepfather's truck, near his mother's home, apparently on his way to turning himself in.
What makes the priest's murder particularly bizarre and hard to accept is the fact that the alleged murderer had just been released by police, hours before the murder took place. His behavior, according to reports, was troubling, to say the least.
As the Herald-Standard explained, Rev. Eric Freed was found dead inside the church's rectory on New Year's Day. However, the alleged murderer, Bullock, had just been arrested for disorderly conduct the day before. While in custody, Bullock apparently tried to kick the patrol car's windows out. Jail nurses tried to examine him but his heart was racing too high, so he was taken to the emergency room for further evaluation.
After he was given the green light, Bullock was taken to jail where he was held for eight hours. He was then released from jail shortly after midnight. A little more than an hour later, at 2 a.m., Bullock was spotted by a security guard, standing outside the church's fellowship hall. At this point, Bullock was told to leave and the police were called
When police arrived, Bullock was seen standing outside the church's rectory, but for reasons not disclosed, was simply let go by the officer.
At around 3:30 a.m., Bullock was once again spotted on the property by the security guard. Bullock was standing outside the church hall, again, but this time he was seen holding a wooden stake in his hand. Security, again, told him to leave, but police were not contacted this time.
Investigators believe that at this point, Bullock had not yet entered the rectory and that the priest was still alive. However, in the morning, Rev. Freed did not show up for morning mass, which is when someone was sent looking for him and found him dead inside the rectory. There were signs of forced entry, evidence that the priest had been beaten to death, and the wooden stake was found at the scene.
Could this horrific murder been avoided?
Authorities insist that they did everything they could.
"In this, I am satisfied our officers did what they could do, given the parameters of the law," said Police Chief, Andrew Mills, a former police captain in San Diego who, apparently, took over as police chief only two months ago.
"The question becomes could we have done other administrative things such as taking him over to the shelter. Would that have been reasonable? We'll have to wrestle with these questions," he added.
However, as the Herald-Standard reports, Bullock was not exactly a stranger to authorities in Humboldt County. He was, apparently, "on probation for misdemeanor convictions for cocaine possession" although he had "no record of violent crime".
A local parishioner expressed disbelief and disappointment at a broken system.
"Our police do a good job, but something is broken in our system if we can have people arrested and released. We've got people here we want to to be caring and compassionate towards, but there's got to be a better way."